With basketball season almost over as the NBA Finals are ongoing, it's the perfect time to announce who will be playing basketball great Nathaniel 'Sweetwater' Clifton in the biopic. According to director Martin Guigui's MovieSet blog, actor Wood Harris has been selected to play the first African American to play in the NBA.
Harris, who played the memorable Baltimore drug czar Avon Barksdale on HBO's The Wire, is no stranger to playing basketball on film. While attending NYU film school, Wood landed his first major film role in the basketball drama 'Above The Rim' starring opposite Duane Martin, Marlon Wayans and the late Tupac Shakur. He also played a high school player in Malcolm D. Lee's short film, 'Morningside Prep'.
Writer-director Martin Guigui has spent a decade working on this film and now that he's found his star, all the pieces should start coming together.
According to wikipedia, Sweetwater Clifton joined the New York Rens, an all-black professional basketball team that toured throughout the United States. Noted for his large hands, which required a size 14 glove, after one season he was invited to join the Harlem Globetrotters with which he would play from the fall of 1947 to the spring of 1950. Still a talented baseball first baseman, during the basketball off-season in 1949 Clifton played for the Chicago American Giants in Negro League baseball. By 1950, his performance with the Globetrotters, in particular his exceptional ball handling ability, led to his becoming the first African American player to sign a contract with an NBA team.
Already 27 when he made his debut as a member of the New York Knicks, in his first season Clifton helped lead the team to its first-ever appearance in the NBA finals. During his eight seasons in the NBA, Clifton averaged 10 points and 9 rebounds per game. He was named to the 1957 NBA All-Star team, scoring 8 points in 23 minutes in the game. At age 34, he became the oldest player in NBA history to be named an All-Star.